It’s a dream come true!
My connection with Queen’s College, Guyana, has proven to be a great opportunity of grace and honour. Wherever I travelled in the world, I proudly announced my Alma Mater with distinction, knowing that my five years there provided me a distinct training ground for language skills, social negotiation and inter racial success.
The recent twentieth anniversary of Queen’s alumni in Toronto reminded us that equitable living, inclusive development and innovative practices should be our gift to Guyana and the rest of the world. Such was the inspired message one of our proud sons Dr. Lawrence Clarke, USA, delivered in his notable jovial and exceptional academic style. Women are excelling in the world today in fields of leadership, science and education. However, the recent recognition of Yemeni Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Tawakkul Karman, as this young hijabi struggled fearlessly to ensure justice was done in the Arab Spring, reminds us that the many unsung heroines of our time, our mothers first, are the bedrock of our civilization and even a silent prayer on their behalf is worth more than a thousand plaques of Facebook recognition.
This weekend in Toronto, my schedule, as usual, reminded me that my upbringing in Guyana has made me quietly thankful yet sonorously humble that I can navigate between cultures, traditions, and religious personalities, given the wide scope of events a cleric must attend and still remain a rock of steadfastness on one’s Faith.
Where in the world can one attend a Muslim-service for inmates held in a chapel, grab a fish fillet at MacDonald’s on his way to praying the midday prayers at the mosque and then head to a Diwali celebration, bringing the message of love, while his GPS is set to a church where he prays sunset prayer in a room observed by others reverently? It gets better! Later he sits with Christians, offering reflections and finally has supper with a venerable Rabbi among others, in a hall decked for Halloween, where but Canada?
This is the season of reflection. As pilgrims head for Mecca, remembering Abraham’s willingness to let go of his beloved son, so the higher calling of God’s love may prevail, seems to me is the essence of Hajj. This is the time that we seek to share the halal meal with the lesser fortunate, as we make the yearly charity of Qurbani, commemorating the fact that human sacrifice i.e. ‘honour’ killings, are absolutely prohibited.
This is also Remembrance Day season- a time we are jolted out of our family-job-entertainment focused lifestyle to say: never again will the ruthless horrors of war be our political game plan; sometimes backed by anti-Semitic, Islamophobia, homophobic and all forms of discriminatory ideology lurking behind encrypted usernames and passwords. When you wear a poppy you say to yourself and the rest of us: that I will not discriminate as racists are unwelcome sharks.
This is the time to Remember. Lest we forget! No one should be discriminated against, regardless of whatever sect they belong to or country of origin. The greatest teaching in Scripture is to love your neighbour with all your heart!
As I prayed for the meaning of peace and love in the Interfaith Neighbourhood service last evening, the new moon of an ending lunar year, seem to instil into my deeper conscience, a nuance of Prophet Job’s like supplication: that it’s time to relentlessly speak up to God.
That Oh Lord of Abraham and Muhammad and the billions of downtrodden humans in my family, how long will I hope that my daily prayers, my annual fasts and constant charity, with my occasional pilgrimage, besides my daily dosages of religious observances, be held hostage at your merciful court, while I beg for the release from these shackles of unholy forces and cruel financiers? Is it that my worship is so meagre and my faith is too frail, that you do not respond to my petition against this dark wave of unstoppable hurt, wanton pillage and indifferent leadership; that rape our innocence and disregard our environment? Maybe my blood is boiling and my eyes well tears, my hands have become nervous and I cannot contain my angst, but allow me to at least realise that without the sacrifice of Jesus, Moses and Muhammad, on whom be peace, and our Father Abraham’s ultimate sacrifice, we will not have any prayers answered let alone understand Divine justice where we are. Oh Lord of Creation, you are peace, shower us with such peace that forgiveness of ourselves and forgiveness of others comes to us with such ease like the streams that enter your oceans; regardless from which continent we come from, we may live together in these watery places.
As the Archbishop of the Catholic Archdiocese of Toronto said recently in the largest dinner in Canada, 1600 attendees, that we used to love people and use things but today we love things and use people!
Quran 49:13 O Humankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know each other (not that you may despise (each other). Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of God is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And Allah has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things).